Wednesday 23rd March 2017
When it comes to an entertaining away day, all the ingredients are still there as they have always been. Consequently, Saturday was filled with the usual banter and laughter. We got beat and that filled me with levels of disappointment and frustration to match any one out there. But there are an increasing number where a defeat or a bad spell like the one we are experiencing right now are dealing with it with sheer anger. Almost using the situation as an excuse to rebel. To join in with an ‘anti-establishment revolution’.
Lunchtime kick-offs are a potential problem for me and my fellow nearby Gooner mates given where I live these days. Staying the night before is often the only option although admittedly as long as that isn’t too inconvenient I’m never against a Friday overnighter somewhere! Alternatively I have to leave early, very early at times. Saturday was one such occasion and it didn’t help when our first ferry option was cancelled due to the crew not getting out of bed or something. It is absolutely fantastic living in a relaxed part of the world. We do however, have to accept the situation being a tiny bit over ‘laid back’ now and again!
A quick taxi divert to one of our alternative (but slower) cross Solent options and we were on our way, our smooth car journey along the M275, M27, M3, A34, M40, M42 and M5 seeing us parked up and having just over an hour to enjoy the pre-match fare provided by our usual hosts for this fixture.
Overall it had us in fine spirits and we looked forward to the game as we always do. That anticipation however, was definitely accompanied by a degree of wonder as to how our travelling army of fans would react on the day given the hype surrounding both our team’s current form and the future of our boss.
To be fair I heard nothing but full support for the team before the match and during the vast majority of the first half. I didn’t see the aircraft although even that was nothing short of farcical given the two messages. I’m sure there are people out there who know who arranged them but I couldn’t help but have the cynical view that it was the media or someone connected with another club who find the divide amongst our own fans comical. Seeing Arsenal ‘fail’ pleases the majority more than anything else remember. That has been the case ever since the thirties when we dominated and was quite clearly born out of jealousy. So anything that can be added to stir up the fire those responsible will only be too keen to get involved.
I’ve mentioned it before but during periods like this we have always stuck together. Unfortunately however, we seem to have a generation these days who get pleasure out of joining the ‘knockers’ from outside of our club rather than standing as one against them.
Other than the defeat one thing is more disappointing than anything else from our trip to The Hawthorns and that is our inability to deal with our hosts’ set piece threat. Everyone knew they had one. But we coped abysmally. Our record cannot be argued unfortunately. Defensively, as a unit, we are weak and easily penetrable right now. And in a situation like that we will continue to drop points.
Murmurings from the ‘rebels’ began once we went 2-1 down and intensified when The Baggies nodded home the 3rd with another unmarked header. And we can talk all we like about majority ‘for and against’, the fact remains there is a severe lack of unity amongst Gooners right now.
That, along with everything else, is not just a negative but surely doesn’t help the situation we find ourselves in.
The fact only 4 teams can win the FA Cup and we are one of them will see many of this country’s football supporting fans looking at us as spoilt children right now and the fight for match tickets for our semi final against Man City feels no less intense than our previous recent visits. And if there are any Gooners out there that are so fed up with supporting their club they don’t want to go to Wembley please feel free to send your tickets my way. We have hundreds within our supporters club who would love to be there to support their team.
And it’s the super rich boys from the Etihad that we welcome to North London next as we look for a strong end to what has been a hugely inconsistent season.
Enjoy the international break and wear your cannon with pride. I certainly will be. That will never change.
Victoria Concordia Crescit.
Tuesday 14th March 2017
Despite the fact we are now only one of four teams that can win the FA Cup this year I have waited until now to pen my thoughts so we know who stands in our way of yet another final. And if I’m honest I would have chosen our opponent if I had that option. As condescending as this sounds that is not for any other reason than the fact us Arsenal fans will never consider Man City as what you would describe as a ‘rival’. They are not based in London for starters and historically it is only money that has seen them reach the upper reaches of the league on a regular basis.
I found out the result of last night’s quarter final on my mobile phone. I didn’t watch the game due to a total lack of interest on my part. After all, in addition to watching our under 23’s latest encounter live on arsenal.com, getting 1 question right on University Challenge or watching Mary Berry knock up a fine beef and ale cobbler were both far more appealing.
My attitude to watching football live on the TV has changed dramatically down the years. Once upon a time I would pretty much watch everything. When we weren’t playing, Sunday’s meant a day on the sofa nursing a hangover getting up just in time for the 12 noon kick-off, followed by the 2pm and 4pm games and finishing with a game from Spain in the evening. Movement was confined to the loo and to answer the door to the pizza delivery man!
But these days, there is a massive live football overkill with games from all over the world on TV every single day and night. As a result I only watch one if I am genuinely interested. And that is more likely to be a top of the table clash in the National League where I can watch the game as a complete neutral than anything on offer from the Premier League. I watch football to relax when it’s not my team, anything involving a rival or a club I am not fond of tends stress me out. Personal choice I guess.
I thoroughly enjoyed the weekend just gone. Spent in the company of great friends and massive Gooners it involved many of the things I enjoy most about life including of course our match on Saturday evening. And summarising briefly, in a situation where there was absolutely no way we would be seen as ‘winners’ on the day, I think we pretty much did the job well. Wembley beckons. Yet again.
On more than one occasion pre-match I heard people parading as genuine Gooners come out with lines such as ‘a bit of me wants us to lose today’. You know the type, those that when it suits them claim to be the biggest Arsenal fan on the earth yet can’t attend the game that afternoon as they need to go shopping or something.
I find that attitude astounding. An FA Cup Quarter final and you’d be happy if we lost. That’s no Arsenal fan in my book. Although I would be more than happy if the 9000 Lincoln fans had the best football day out of their lives I wanted just one thing from the day. Progression to the semi final and another chance to walk down Wembley Way.
And that brings me on to something else I don’t agree with! Although I have no problem with the rule that sees the away teams in FA Cup ties getting a bigger share of the match tickets, I passionately feel this should be based on the visitors’ average home attendance. From what I understand it can be up to 15% available for the away team under the current FA rules. If that is above the normal allocation for a league game I believe it should only be relevant if that total matches 15% of their average home attendance. So Man Utd for example get 70 odd thousand through the door and I would expect them to take their allocation of 9 thousand. But with Lincoln getting 5 odd thousand every week, the fact they got 9 thousand tickets on Saturday is ridiculous. Three thousand would have been more than sufficient for their genuine week in week out fans. That meant 6 thousand Gooners, including loads of regulars in our own supporters club, could not attend the game. And no matter who you support, that is not right in my book.
As we see year in year out with cup finals however, there is no shock in the FA mucking up when getting genuine fans of the clubs taking part through the turnstiles.
In one aspect I felt Saturday evening would be similar to the Munich home game. I felt our visitors could make it tough for us in the first hour but was confident they would run out of steam. So as long as we didn’t give ourselves a mountain to climb I never felt at any stage we would do anything other than win comfortably. And overall, that is exactly how it panned out. I’m not really sure how else it can be analysed.
As (hopefully) we come out of what has been an extremely disappointing, frustrating and difficult period, that result will certainly do and we can look forward to a day out at Wembley in a few weeks time.
Before that we very much need to get our league form back on track and that starts with a tough looking trip to The Hawthorns this coming Saturday lunchtime. I say ‘tough’ because it doesn’t matter who you play when your form is below par, every game looks daunting. And our results away at West Brom have been pretty mixed down the years.
But if we get behind the team like we know we can we are capable of coming away with a positive result.
Come on you mighty reds!
Tuesday 7th March 2017 Part 2
A couple of things tonight I haven’t done or experienced before. Firstly I don’t remember ever writing two blogs in one day. Secondly and more importantly of course I have never seen us lose a cup tie by 8 goals.
But, from the moment Laurent was sent from the field there was always a chance that could happen.
That doesn’t mean I am going home without a sense of pride.
Being proud to be a Gooner and support my club is part of what I love for. And that hasn’t changed one bit as a result of tonight.
Me leaving a game early is rare. And very early I can only remember 2 other occasions in 40 odd years. The first was the Charity Shield back in August 1979. I was a young boy so didn’t get a choice but when my dad and his mate decided to leave early I do remember we were getting well and truly spanked.
The second happened on my birthday and it was the day we got beaten 6-1 at Old Trafford. After 5 I’d had enough and so headed home to watch us fight another day.
Tonight was the 3rd occasion. For all our effort and good play on the night it was painful once Bayern equalised and we were reduced to 10 men. So once the 4th went in I headed for the tube station and the start of my journey south.
I don’t feel gutted or numb or hard done by or shocked etc. My hope for progression from tonight was only just above non existent. So to feel any of those emotions would be hypocritical.
For the best part of an hour the game was very very similar to when we so nearly turned round an almost impossible situation against AC Milan a few years back. But although the first half of that game gave me hope, the way our initial play was followed by grit and determination despite being absolutely cream crackered told me if we were to have any chance tonight I was convinced we would need to be 4 up inside an hour.
And do you know what? We had a go. In fact I’m not sure we could have done an awful lot more than we did on the night.
We could have scored 5 or 6 in that first hour. Genuinely. Our intensity was spot on and we created many chances. But on a night like that you need them all to go in and the refereeing decisions to go your way to give you hope.
What happened after the penalty is a bit irrelevant for me. It extinguished that little tiny candle of hope once and for all. And the referee might as well have called a halt to proceedings at that moment. The tie was lost in Munich, it’s as simple as that.
So I am happy to leave it there.
We need to pick ourselves up and move on. If we win on Saturday we are going to Wembley. Not a bad incentive that.
Proud to be a Gooner until the day I die.
Tuesday 7th March 2017
Rarely do I pen my thoughts on the day of a match and once again there is no actual reason why it has taken me this long since our disappointing trip to Liverpool. Like everyone else however, I also can’t deny feeling particularly downbeat about our whole situation right now. But I’m old enough to have seen it worse. And an awful lot worse at that. And when I feel my back is against the wall it makes me want to go to games even more than ever. Some strange in built extra determination to stick my two fingers up at everybody else. And when I get home from tonight’s match in the early hours of tomorrow morning, whatever the score, that feeling will not change.
There is a well used saying that goes something like, “if it isn’t broken don’t fix it’. But at the moment it is very difficult to support that argument. The alarming way our form has dipped since just before Christmas is both disappointing and puzzling (despite every single one of us of course being world class managers!) One thing is for sure, something just isn’t right.
Once again, off the field, our particular travelling party had a great time. A journey that started walking up the pier near my home and watching the sun rise where the sea meets the sky in the east is always something to behold and makes what can be quite a difficult 20 minute stroll all the more uplifting. And despite our whole train journey being potentially packed with a huge amount of problems, our careful planning proved fruitful and the whole package could not have gone more smoothly.
Our train from London’s Euston station was graced with a large travelling Gooner presence too, pleasing given the ‘uprising’ or ‘revolution’ that seems to be going on within our following if social media and the press are anything to go by. On the other hand however, we did have a few texts from people who could no longer make it. Due to ‘the dog needing a bath’ or ‘forgetting a nasal hair trimming appointment’ etc.
That situation always makes me smile. I can absolutely guarantee all those who pulled out would have been there had we been top of the league. I have absolutely no problem if people choose not to travel (other than the fact it means other Gooners have potentially missed out when they would have travelled) but I would rather they would give me the ‘I can’t be bothered’ excuse rather than some of the other rubbish!! 😉
Having checked into our hotel in Liverpool’s historical docks area we made our way to our chosen pre-match hostelry/wine bar/cocktail lounge and it would be safe to say the company and banter had us all in extremely high spirits. And that breeds confidence. Usually. But the general consensus of opinion was it depends on what Arsenal turn up for us to even have a chance.
For me it’s more that I have absolutely no confidence that we can keep a clean sheet at the moment. Certainly against sides in the top half of the table. And in that situation it means we need to score 2 at the very least to have a chance of winning. And that’s not something new this season either. I don’t think we necessarily have bad defenders. But we appear ‘soft’ right now. We are conceding goals that look ‘easy’. Not a piece of incredible attacking football where we are forced to offer a certain amount of admiration for the opponents.
And that means there is something wrong.
Saturday evening was a perfect example. There was absolutely nothing from our hosts that impressed in the opening exchanges. If anything in fact we looked to have started the game slightly quicker and sharper. Yet in a flash, with what appeared little effort, we found ourselves one down.
Not only does that give us a mountain to climb away from home at one of the more difficult grounds to get a result, but a team that itself is arguably lacking a bit of confidence gets a huge lift, as does the home crowd. And a tricky fixture becomes a hugely difficult one in a split second.
For the rest of the half we were poor. Our hosts were comfortably on top but didn’t offer much of a goal threat so it looked like we would get through to half time just a goal behind and with the opportunity to get a breather and start again. Another softly conceded goal just before the break and we were virtually dead and buried. Very very deflating and disappointing.
Our second half performance was much better admittedly but although we enjoyed much more attacking situations we simply gave ourselves too much to do. As often is the case a potential 2-2 became a 3-1 scoreline in the dying seconds and once again we came away with nothing from an away fixture against one of the top 8.
As much as it frustrates and can put a real downer on the day we were determined not to let it spoil our Saturday night out and consequently our host city’s hospitality was enjoyed until well into the early hours of Sunday to conclude a thoroughly entertaining away day off the pitch if not on it.
And that brings us to tonight.
The fact that if we go through it will arguably be up there amongst the greatest victories in our club’s long and successful history is probably the best way to describe the situation we are faced with. We are all but out, it is as simple as that. But….we are not quite yet.
And that little tiny bit of hope is what we have to cling on to.
Come on you mighty reds.